QUIZ: Are You Right for Writing?

You’re pretty sure you can string together sentences in a coherent manner. You even have fun doing it. And God knows you’d love to see your name on the cover of a book — maybe a best-seller, even.

But do you have what it takes to be a writer, year in and year out? Could you write your way into a decent supplemental income? Could you write your way out of your day job?

I can’t promise you a definite answer, but I might be able to give you a pretty good idea. Take my Are You Right for Writing quiz and find out where you rank on the writing personality index.

This is not a scientific tool; it is simply the product of my years of observing myself and my colleagues and trying to figure out what makes the whole herd of us tick. I’m a good observer, though; I’d trust the results of my quiz over any you might find in Cosmo.

Okay. Just answer honestly. If you start this out by lying to yourself, skip writing and go straight into politics. The money is better and you’ll be a lot happier.

Question 1:

You’ve turned off the TV, the stereo, and every other possible entertainment device, you have removed all books, and you are sitting in a dimly-lit room doing absolutely nothing. So…how long can you sit without going crazy?

  •  A. 5 seconds. I get cold sweats just thinking about power outages.
  • B. 15 minutes — but only if I have a bag of potato chips.
  • C. 1 hour — I can always replay my last argument and come up with wittier things I could have said.
  • D. Man! I lost track of the time. I started watching people in my imagination doing interesting things, and the next thing I knew, it was nighttime and I’d missed supper.

Question 2:

You’re writing and the phone rings. You:

  • A. Answer it.
  • B. Finish your sentence, then answer it.
  • C. Let the answering machine get it.
  • D. Have no phone access in the room where you work.

Question 3:

The person calling is one of your dearest friends, who wants to get together for brunch and a good long chat about his/her ex. Unfortunately, this juicy brunch will take place during your peak writing time. You:

  • A. Decide to go. You haven’t heard the latest dirt on the evil ex in ages.
  • B. Reschedule for a later hour.
  • C. Reschedule for a non-writing day.
  • D. Pass.

Question 4:

You’re out at the restaurant with your friend when you have a fantastic idea for a novel. You:

  • A. Have to hope you’ll remember it — you have nothing to write with and nothing to write on.
  • B. Will manage. You always have a pen, and there are napkins in restaurants.
  • C. Carry a special notebook, an organizer, or even a laptop with you everywhere — you’re completely prepared.
  • D. Aren’t at the restaurant; that would cut unacceptably into your 14-hour writing workday.

Question 5:

When you see yourself as a successful writer, what is the image that is clearest in your mind:

  • A. The rounds of publishers’ parties, autographings, and talk shows where you are lionized for your work of immortal literary genius?
  • B. Your name on the spines of a shelf full of beautiful books?
  • C. A vision of sending off a completed manuscript to a waiting editor or agent?
  • D. Your butt in your chair, your fingers on your keyboard, and your eyes on your monitor (or whatever tools you use to produce your stories or novels.)

Question 6:

You anticipate being able to quit your day job to write full time:

  • A. immediately — you have a great idea for a book you know will be a bestseller;
  • B. as soon as the first book sells;
  • C. when you have three or four on the shelf;
  • D. when you’re making as much from writing as you make at your day job . . . and have done so for a couple of years.

Question 7:

Do you have…

  • A. an idea for the Great American Novel — a certain best-seller;
  • B. a few ideas for different stories;
  • C. background and development for a number of related books, a timeline, and a whole handful of novel ideas;
  • D. half a dozen fully developed worlds, including maps, costume worksheets, fully developed languages, cultures, flora, fauna, religions, sciences, and much more, plus enough story ideas to get you through this lifetime, and the next one.

Question 8:

You figure the biggest benefit of becoming a writer is:

  • A. Money & fame;
  • B. Flexible hours;
  • C. Creative control and being your own boss;
  • D. The writing.

Question 9:

You read:

  • A. The occasional newspaper, magazines, and remember having read books . . . but not recently;
  • B. You read in your free time if you don’t have something better to do;
  • You invented the term multi-tasking because reading IS your “something better to do”— you usually have a book in hand no matter what else you’re doing at the time;
  • D. Your house doesn’t need insulation; the triple-stacked shelves of all your books will serve quite nicely, thank you. (The electronic corollary to this is that you already own most of the ebooks on the internet, and have to write now just to have something new to read.)

Question 10:

Where is the weirdest place you have ever written?

  • A. Your desk…maybe, in a crunch, at the kitchen table;
  • B. In bed. (An extra 1O points for this one if you were on your honeymoon at the time);
  • C. On the toilet;
  • D. Don’t ask.

Scoring the Quiz

Give yourself 1 point for each A answer you gave, 3 points for each B answer, 6 points for each C answer, and 10 points for each D answer. Add up your answers, then check out the short key below before going on to the discussion.
10 – 29 points—You have some seriously romanticized ideas of what writing for a living is like. You’re going to be badly disappointed by the reality.

30 – 49 points—There’s hope; you suspect some of the darker truths about the profession, and have an idea of what some of the rewards are. If you really want to do this, you’ll face some disillusionment, but also stand a good chance of finding the real joys of the profession.

50 – 79 points—If you can write, you’re in there.

80 – 103 points—You’ll probably make a great writer. You should think very carefully before getting married, having children, or buying a pet, however. Walking into your living room and discovering the dust-covered skeleton that was your cat — or your spouse — can be really bad for morale.

And Now The Discussion

Quizzes have always seemed pretty worthless to me if they didn’t include a discussion of why any given answer was good or bad. So my quiz includes a question-by-question discussion.

Question 1 Answers—That empty room with nothing going on was not a hypothetical situation. That’s the writer’s work day. You, a quiet room, and nothing happening except for what’s going on between your ears. This is pretty much a make-or-break question: if you can’t entertain yourself for at least a few hours a day with no source of entertainment but your thoughts, you’re not going to have much fun writing for a living.

Question 2 Answers—As long as you have no one depending on you, D is the ideal answer — but most of us live in a world where someone we love might, at some point, need us. So we don’t have the option of seclusion. The self-control of screening out all but emergency calls with an answering machine (or looking for the name of the person calling on your cellphone before answering, and only answering calls from your priority people during work hours) becomes the real-world, practical answer.

Question 3 Answers—This one depends on how much you want to hang onto your friends, but also on how often such invitations come. The friend who routinely disrupts your writing time (if he knows it’s your writing time—making sure he knows when you write is up to you) isn’t much of a friend.

However, if you’re passing on spending time with someone who is usually respectful of your schedule but who could use some support now, you aren’t much of a friend. Writing needs to hold an important place in your life, but if you plan on having a life, it can’t hold the number one spot.

Question 4 Answers—I come in with a solid C on this one: because I always (yes, always) have my Visor with me, I could actually write the book on the spot, were I so inclined. (Okay, so now it’s my iPhone. Same concept, better software.) You need to keep some tools with you all the time. Visor, tape recorder, or even just a little notepad and a pen—you need to have something to record great lines, bits of dialogue, or character or story ideas while you’re out. And you can’t count on everyone to have napkins you can borrow.

Question 5 Answers—If you chose answer A for this question, sit down. I have bad news. No one is going to hold a ticker tape parade in your honor because you wrote a book, or even a bunch of books. Aside from your spouse, your agent, and your eventual fans, no one CARES that you’re a writer. You won’t be recognized in restaurants and hounded for your autograph. Hell, you won’t even be recognized in bookstores unless you introduce yourself. And maybe not even then.

If your answer was B, you’re getting warmer. The name-on-the-books thing is big. But you’re looking for happiness a long way from its source. In almost all cases, it takes a minimum of about two years from the time you start writing the book until the time it sees print. That’s best case, when you have a contract for the book. If you have to write the book and then sell it, you could be in for a very long haul.

If you chose answer C, mailing off a finished manuscript, you’re edging close to home, but not there yet. If you’re very prolific, you’ll complete two or three first-draft novels in a year. I usually do one or two. I have friends and colleagues who do a book every two years or less. That’s a long time to wait for the thrill.

If you picked D, you have the best chance of being happy enough with what you’re doing to do it long enough to succeed. To be a career writer, you really ought to like to write. You ought to have fun sitting in your little corner of the kitchen or your office, if you’re lucky enough to have one, coming up with neat stuff to do to your characters. If you can learn to get your joy from that, you can be happy nearly every day.

Question 6 Answers—I know the temptation to quit the day job. Boy, do I. As someone who once dumped a really good straight-days weekend-Baylor nursing job on the strength of just an idea—and then had to go get a job that was less good a year later when things didn’t pan out, I’m aware of just how strong that pull can be. And what a mistake it can be to give in to it.

If you’re desperate to get out of your day job, you’re probably not going to listen to me, but I’ll say this anyway; the longer you hold on to your day job after you start selling your work (and the smarter you are about hanging on to the writing money), the less likely you’ll be to give up on writing in desperation a year or several years down the road, when the grind of never knowing when—or if—you’re going to get paid drags you under.

Question 7 Answers—An idea for one book is a good start, but except in the rarest of cases, one book does not make a career. If you are already giving some thought to what you’re going to do for an encore, and for the encore after that, you’re thinking like a pro.

Question 8 Answers—If you think the main benefit of being a writer is money and fame, think again. When most first novels sell for around $5000 to $7500 dollars (and this is for something that may have taken years to write), and most novels disappear from shelves in weeks, never to be seen again, and most readers cannot tell you the names of the authors of most of the books they liked, much less recognize those authors by sight, your chance at finding great wealth or public adulation in this business is vanishingly small.

And the dark truth about most self-pubbed novels is that while you can put them together for damn near free if you’re not including the value of your own time in your math (and you should be), most self-pubbed novels sell as badly as or worse than most commercially published novels. Deservedly so. And this won’t change, simply because of Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap.

As for flexible hours . . . yes, they are flexible. When I was getting started as a pro, they flexed from the minute the kids left for school in the morning until they got home in the afternoon, and then from 9 p.m., after they went to bed, until I couldn’t force my eyes open any longer, every day off. Since I worked 12 hour weekend nursing shifts and had older children, I at least had long blocks of time to write. Before the kids started school, it was a lot harder to find time.

As for taking days off—you can take off any day you want. You just don’t get paid. I’ve had one vacation since 1991, when I sold the first book. I don’t work 10-hour days anymore, which is nice. I do work seven days a week most weeks. And I never have enough time to do everything I want. Rule of thumb for the self-employed: It’s illegal for anyone to ask you to work as long or as hard as you’ll be working for yourself.

Creative control is great. No caveats there. Being your own boss is great, too—except that your boss is probably going to have to be a slave-driver if you’re going to make it professionally.
If your reward is the writing, though, even the long hours, the poor or nonexistent pay, and the anonymity will be no big deal.

Question 9 Answers—I’ve never known a successful writer who wasn’t also a compulsive reader. The only real difference between the third answer to this question and the fourth is that some of us are book packrats, and some of us aren’t. But if you aren’t a big reader, you’re going to have a terrible time figuring out what is a truly different approach to a story and what has been done to death.

Question 10 Answers—You may be asking, “What could it possibly matter where I’ve written, or under what circumstances?”
Writing at odd times and in unlikely places simply serves as a clear sign of how deeply the writing bug has bitten you.

Case in point—I’m writing this right now on the backlit screen of my Visor, sitting on the floor in the middle of a neighborhood blackout, hanging out with my family. And writing. This isn’t the weirdest place, or the weirdest situation, in which I have written. I definitely earn a D “you don’t want to know” response to this question.
The presence of that unstoppable—sometime unbearable—urge to put words on a page is a good sign that you have a chance of outlasting the early-career hard times. If you can stay writing long enough to learn your craft, and still be hungry for the next word after years of next words, you just might make it.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes about writers by a writer:

“I could claim any number of highflown reasons for writing, just as you can explain certain dog behavior as submission to the alpha, or even as a moral choice. But maybe it’s that they’re dogs, and that’s what dogs do.”
Amy Hempel


NOTE: I offer a comprehensive introductory class based on my fiction-writing and publishing experience. It’s called How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t SUCK, and it is no-strings-attached FREE, including a private classroom, downloadable lessons, and a friendly, well-moderated forum where you can work with other students. I hope you’ll try it out.


123 responses to “QUIZ: Are You Right for Writing?”

  1. Marilyn Friesen Avatar
    Marilyn Friesen

    OK I got 86% on this quiz but I only sell about one book a month which makes me sick. Are people that prejudiced against self published books? My books are on Amazon, the author’s name is Marilyn Friesen and the covers are great!

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’m doing a complete overhaul on my writing website — https://HollysWritingClasses.com — at the moment, but once it’s done, some of my guys and I are working on launching our fiction on Amazon. If the theories pan out, we’re going to be putting together book launch groups and teams to help our writers find their readers.

      You’re invited.

  2. Sarah Avatar

    I got 66% and I’m only twelve, so that’s good!

    My story is called “Dying shadows” and it’s about a seventeen year old girl named Christina (Chris) who lost both her parents in a shooting at her tenth birthday party. She was the only survivor of the shooting, but was in critical condition.
    Her fourteen year old sister, Maya, had stayed home, but when she heard the news and how Chris probably wouldn’t survive, she had killed herself on that very night, and became a spirit soon after. (In my story, spirits can only go to the afterlife if they complete their purpose, and can’t leave until they fulfill it. Their purpose is usually their biggest desire, sometimes having to act through someone else. In this case Chris would be Maya’s purpose, to make Christina realize Maya was okay. Chris had felt a ton of undeserved guilt after the shooting.)
    Fast forward seven years, Chris has grown up into a scared, sad, snarky, but still kind young lady, who takes on odd jobs just to pay the bills. She visits Maya’s grave regularly, and pays her due respects. Chris keeps running into this little girl called Luna, and her two friends, Wyatt and Miles. The three kids live on the street and Chris forms a trust with them, especially Luna.

    In the library in the city that they all live in, strange sightings and hallucinations occur, but not many people sense it. Chris and Luna have both seen a pale, looming figure with a soft, girly voice calling them. Chris is scared, but while investigating, she discovers a book that supposedly show how to get in touch with your dead loved ones. Chris tries to do the “Summons” in the book, but never completes it. Good for her, because Luna soon informs that that book was written by a cursed author, long dead. All the copies in the world of that book have been burned (On account of whoever touches it or uses it in any form gets… Possessed? Crazy, on any means, but the book always finds itself in another’s hands anyway.)

    So Chris is stressed and worried, as she should be, and Luna. Has. Secrets. About herself, and has shown a little bit of a darker side to herself, despite her very young age.

    Maya, on the other hand, has met a wandering spirit named Ivy. (Wandering spirits are usually murder victims whose purpose is to get revenge on their murderer, or something in contact with them. For example, Chris’s parents would be wandering spirits, but the way they work causes more and more of their kind, and it gets a little out of control, if you look from the dead’s side of things.) Anyway, Ivy comes to visit Maya on her birthday each year, which happens to be the day before Christina’s. Ghosts can’t age in death, but it was a fun tradition. I don’t know what part Ivy plays in the story yet, but she will have something.

    Maya has suddenly seen her reflection in the mirror again in the present. She’s not alive, exactly, and she doesn’t know the reason, but what she does know is that her reflection was not making the same face as her. Chris runs into that room, and sees Maya again, bumping into her. They stare at each other, but Christina only says,

    “How are there two of you?” Chris was not in the room with Maya at the time of the panic, so how did she know?

    That’s where I’m at so far. I’m sorry if it’s boring. I think the main trouble is is I’m not good at narrating. I have a few points of view. Maya in third person, and Chris in first, alternating between chapters. I had gotten this idea from Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus series, (Brilliant, btw) which used the same principle, but…I’m SO not good at first person. I think I’m going to have to change that A.S.A.P. and write it all in third person.

    Do you have any tips on how to make a world feel complete? I’m not exactly sure how to make my world feel believable, like you’re actually walking through it? So far it just feels like my character is in a bubble, taking in the settings right in front of her, but not completely around her. Do you know what I mean?

    Thanks for this quiz, I enjoyed it! Have a great day!


    1. Ingrid Avatar

      Hi! I’m twelve years old (almost thirteen!) and I’ve been writing stories since I could write! Your story sounds great! The story I’m currently writing is kind of dark-its a romance/fantasy novel set in medieval times but with dragons and an evil queen and wizards and magic gems and stuff like that. My parents won’t let me publish yet, but I’ve written 4 short novels and about 100 poems, one of which won a poetry contest! I scored an 89 or something like it on this quiz-math is not my strong suit.

      1. Ingrid Avatar

        Also, for the ghost’s friend, Ivy, I know what her backstory could be-she was killed by the same shooter that was at Chris’s birthday party-the shooter could be a serial killer! Just an idea.

    2. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Hi, Sarah — am still buried in a massive revision of four novels, and have fallen behind on comments.

      But reading what you posted above, I’ll say a few things. First, your technical writing skills are superb. Spelling, punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary are all excellent.

      Next, your story plot is solid.

      There is, however, an old adage about fiction writing that pertains here:

      Write what you know.

      You know what it’s like to be twelve — almost thirteen. You do not know what it’s like to be seventeen, and from the perspective of someone who’s been both (and a whole lot of other ages as well) seventeen is not a taller twelve.

      Seventeen is a completely different universe, and until you’ve lived through it, you cannot write it honestly. You will guess what it’s like, but you will guess incorrectly… and while other girls your age might enjoy the story, it will fall apart for anyone older than you are.

      And — much harder to live with — it will fall apart for you by the time you’re seventeen. All writers cringe over some of their earlier work. Writing what you don’t know is the fast path to that.

    3. Alex Avatar

      Hello there! I’ve scored a 70 and I’m still kind of a new writer. I’m 14 – turning 15 – and I really love writing! I’ve been reading ever since I could read and writing has been one of my hobbies for about a year only. I feel disappointed knowing that I hadn’t started earlier but I can’t do anything about that. It’s been difficult for me to write a book, since I’ve been getting writers block often and I usually just stop writing the story when I feel like it turned out bad. How can I stop doing this?

      1. Holly Avatar

        I strongly suggest writing shorter stories. WITH YOUR PARENTS’ PERMISSION AND SUPERVISION, I’m inviting you to take the free “How to Write Flash Fiction” class over on my writing site. It will teach you how to plot and structure your fiction in a very short form (and will also give you a serious leg up on any fiction-writing assignments you may have in school).

        Once you’re comfortable writing complete stories in very short form, the process for writing novellas and novels becomes a lot clearer.

        It’s here: https://www.hollyswritingclasses.com/course/how-to-write-flash-fiction-that-doesnt-suck-the-free-class/

        You are too young to participate in the forums — we limit forum use to folks over sixteen (and strongly suggest parental supervision for anyone under eighteen). But as long as you don’t use the forums until you’re old enough, I don’t object at all to you taking the free Flash Fiction class.

    4. Ana Avatar

      Have you published this book?

  3. Yoshimi Miyazaki Avatar

    Hi Holly,

    Thanks for this quiz (I scored 69). I have 7 published books, editing my 8th one (romance series, probably 10 books total, with Christmas novellas — I have 2 written and short stories to go with the series).
    Still working my day job although I’ve cut back on my hours, which I’m grateful for my husband’s support in doing so.
    I would love to take your class however I don’t know what ‘flash fiction’ is. I get this image of writing to prompts for 10 minutes.
    Okay, thank you again! yoshimi

    1. Holly Avatar

      Flash fiction is complete, plotted stories that are approximately 500 words long. It is a well-respected form of literature when done well. When done badly, as it almost always is (since it is almost always taught badly) it is usually known as slice of life.

      If you want to see what real flash fiction consists of, I have a ten-story book here: Strange Arrivals: Ten Tiny, Twisty Fantasy Tales. It isn’t free, but it is just 99 cents.

  4. Zach Avatar

    Hello! I am currently writing an epic fantasy book, The Lost Prince, but have about fifty other novel ideas (about ten of them are planned out and ready). I scored a 75 on this quiz, and thought it was super fun to do. I am only 12, but I hope to be published by age 14 or sooner. I’m been writing books since I was 8, and have never stopped since. I hope to one day write professionally, but only after making sure I can really do it. Writing is my greatest hobby, and more than once people have gotten frustrated with how much I write. Is people being annoyed at how much I write normal?
    Thanks for your time!

    1. Holly Avatar

      Writing is my greatest hobby, and more than once people have gotten frustrated with how much I write. Is people being annoyed at how much I write normal?

      First, congratulations on knowing what you want to do, and on actually taking the steps to do it. Second, yep, having people annoyed at you for knowing what you love and daring to do it is, in fact, VERY common. Anticipate people trying to talk you out of it, trying to direct you into work you don’t love, and trying to tell you that you’re too young to know what you want to do with your life.

      You’re not. You might find out at some point in your life that there’s something you love more than writing, but you’re the only person on the planet that can make that determination. In the meantime, pursue what you love with courage, dare to learn everything you can about the job, focus on your skills, on your passions, and on figuring out how to get your characters to surprise you (because when they surprise the writer, they will also surprise the reader).

      This is a fantastic job if you think that sitting in a room imagining things that never were and never will be is fun — and if you enjoy bringing those things to life. Good luck… and if you get the chance, let me know how it works out for you. I’m cheering for your success.

    2. Sarah Avatar

      Hi, Zach! I’m 12 too, and I’m working on a horror book called “Dying shadows.” I hope to be published soon too, and I’ll keep an eye out for “The lost prince”!

      Also, people have gotten mad at how much I write too XD.

      1. Maggie Avatar

        Hi! I’m twelve too! I’m working on a fantasy book, although I don’t know what the title would be yet. I think I’ll decide on a title after the book is done. I hope I’ll publish soon too, but I also don’t want to rush into finishing it and I’m trying to take my time in writing it, especially with school and all.

        I can’t believe people got mad at you two too.

        1. Scarlett Avatar

          Hi! I’m ALMOST 12. I’m currently working on a book called “Ruby Rain.” I really hope it can get published. Hope that I’ll see your books in stores soon!

    3. Ana Avatar

      Hello! I’ve been writing books since I was around seven or six (Don’t quite now accurate numbers) And had loved it for years. I am ten – Turning eleven in four months – and writing a book called “Crowns and Chaos”
      I have currently started writing this novel, only on chapter eleven page fifty, however I am planing to self-publish it when finished. If I could get any advise or thing I should just overall know, please comment any suggestions 🙂 Holly, If you have any classes and such I would love to learn more! Thank you for your time!

      1. Holly Avatar

        Hi, Ana! For now, I’d suggest sticking to the writing articles on this site. I have a lot of them, and they don’t require a membership. I have a website at HollysWritingClasses.com that is JUST for writers… BUT you have to be an adult (or use the site with parental supervision)… so I strongly recommend just reading the articles here for now, and working on your writing in your free time. You’re not too young to start writing fiction with intent to publish.

        You’re just a bit too young (YET) to participate in adult writing communities.

  5. Amelia Avatar

    Hi! Writing 3 books currently – first is about a phoenix, thunderbirds and dragons (and of course normal birds too). Second is about a girl – Luna – who gets sucked into a book, and – oops – the ending disappears, so Luna has to make a happy ending – double oops. And the third is about Sandra, a girl who could’ve sworn that apple turned into a giant sugar cube. When she is swallowed whole by a whirlpool, she finds out it wasn’t her imagination after all – although she never doubted she was dreaming it up. I’m 10 years old, and could really use some encouragement – and some tips, since I want to be published my 12 years. Thanks in advance!

    1. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Amelia. I get a lot of spam, so I monitor all posts from new folks before I publish them. So your first post is here

      And my longish answer is here.

  6. Amelia Avatar

    Hi! I got a 69 on this quiz. I am 10 years old and hope to be published by age 12. I love reading a lot! I have handfuls of book ideas already, and plan to write fantasy. I’m currently working on three books – the ThunderBird series, the Endless Stories series, and Candy Land, which I’m not sure if it’s going to be a series. The “ThunderBird” series is about Queen Thunderstrike, soon to be the second queen, Forestfire (who is actually a phoenix), and Eclispe. The “Endless Stories” series is about Luna, who is sucked into her bookcase, and when she is sucked into the bookcase, the ending on one of her stories disappears – oops. And Luna has to save the characters from the book and make a happy ending. And last but not least, Candy Land, which is about Sandra, who could’ve sworn the apples in her backyard turned into giant sugar cubes. Sandra goes on a trip across the Caribbean and falls off the boat, and in swallowed whole by an imaginary whirlpool (Canadan). The whirlpool is actually a passageway to a magical world of candy where gumdrops grow on trees, and squash is made of chocolate! Any tips on getting published? (By the way, my real name isn’t Amelia, so don’t be surprised if these books are published under a different name!) I could really use some encouraging words for the rocket to depart (of course, not literally). Thanks in advance!

    – “Amelia”

    1. Holly Avatar

      The most important thing I can offer for you — since you sound very much like you’re headed in the right direction, is this.

      Keep going.

      There are writers just a bit older than you who have published successfully. Their parents were on board, and acted as the signers of legal documents and supporters of their kids, and if your parents are supportive and encouraging and your work is good enough and there’s at least one publisher who is open to working with a very young writer, this is within your grasp.

      There is a flip side to this, though, and if you land on the flip side, (as I did) you can still do this. You might just have to do it alone.

      Not all parents are supportive, very few publishers are interested in working with young writers, your work might not yet be of high enough quality to interest agents, or you might discover that commercial publishers are not the best way to publish your work (as I did. They pay late, they pay very little, and they have become nightmares about grabbing publishing rights and then never letting go of them).

      So you might discover that finding a decent publisher and a good agent are very difficult. That you need — or maybe just want — more time. You might decide that you need to publish your own work in order to be paid better and more honestly for it.

      Life takes time, as does solving the many problems and adventures it will throw at you. Your dreams have a funny way of shifting, and changing shape, and hiding for a while, only to come back again later, stronger and more interesting and more challenging.

      To all of what stands ahead of you, I offer this one single-word piece of advice.


      If you want this, you can win it, earn it, make it happen. All the tools exist to permit you to create and run your career YOUR way.

      If you don’t quit. If you keep working. If you keep challenging yourself to make every book you write better than the one before.

      You can do this.

    2. Sarah Avatar

      Those books sound really cool! Good ideas!

  7. Danni Mothwings Avatar
    Danni Mothwings

    I achieved 79 points. Let me tell you, whoever you are that is reading this, writing is my one true state of being. I’m only a sixteen-year-old but writing is my essence. I couldn’t do without it. In the divine realm of my books I am none but the victor. In the triumph of the word breathed upon the page, life might be good or it might be bad but the one guarantee is that it is exactly as I’ve bred it. We, as writers, are the best sculptors in the world.

    1. Holly Avatar

      😀 I have days that feel like that. Today was one of them. And — as the person reading this, writing fiction for a living (and writing about writing fiction) has been my passion for several decades. Have fun with it, find your joy in it.

      Just remember that not every writing day is a good day — and that’s okay, too. Let yourself love the process even on THOSE days.

      The bad days — the ones when the words won’t come, or when you discover that yesterday’s words were the wrong ones, or when someone you trust tells you what you’ve written is garbage because it wasn’t what they would have written, or wasn’t what they wanted to read, or when you know that in that place and in that moment you aren’t living up to your own standards… THOSE days will happen.

      And as long as you remember that bad days WILL happen, and are just part of the process of writing good fiction, you’ll get past them.

      Hold on to the fact that as long as you don’t panic, as long as you acknowledge that not every day is divine, and as long as you hold on to the fact that not every day gives you perfect sculpture in first draft, you can fix what broke, and you can keep going.

  8. Charlie K Avatar
    Charlie K

    Hello Holly.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts online for others to find and read.

    I am a 33 year old male that dreams/craves being a writer, but gets super scared on where/how to start. I struggled in school growing up. Didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted to be. That’s a story for another day, but it sadly was my story.

    I also live with chronic depression and anxiety. With a lack of confidence and a few other personal demons, it sure makes for a party!

    I’ve been told throughout my life I have a good way of seeing things within life as well as being decent with words. I love speaking my mind on things I am passionate about as well as listening to others who have a passion of their own and want to share it.

    I didn’t read a ton growing up, but when I did I would be glued. I dabbled in comics a bit as well as I am a heavy nerd with gaming and other pop culture avenues. I’ve read more in my adult years than I have my younger and I am grateful. It has aided me with understanding and improving my mental health as I love imagining the world the writer is creating to escape to and thus giving me a bit more work to enjoy that escape as I have to visualize it on my own; versus a video game presenting to me the whole deal.

    I have for years written down scratch ideas to WANT to keep working on, but they tend to collect dust over time as I lose focus and confidence to keep trying (as my issue with other avenues in my life).

    I sense I could write a short story with how my imagination works, but I also feel I could publish reviews of certain content. My brain just overthinks writing and it’s frustrating as I do feel deep down that I have something in me that I want try to plant and water, because the I want to see the growth and go from there.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Charlie.

      I had a couple of breakthroughs that helped me decide that I wanted to be a writer — and neither of them was writing-related. The first was that (through a series of horrifying events), I realized that I needed to be able to be home for my kids rather than at work.

      The second was that my marriage was in real trouble, and that being an RN and gone while the kids were at home was not going to work if I left him.

      (Neither of these breakthroughs involved writing fiction at all, but they were the IMPORTANT breakthroughs.)

      The THIRD was that, during the seven years it took for me to actually get good enough to start selling, while it frequently seemed like a hopeless waste of time, and while my family (not my children) assured me that it was a waste of time, I discovered that I liked the work.

      But I didn’t choose the job because I liked it, or because I thought I’d get rich and famous (I haven’t) or because it was the thing I’d always imagined doing. I chose writing as a new career because it was something that would pay me for being a stay-at-home mom.

      And within two years of me starting to sell commercially, my being home was what saved those two kids.

      Discovering that I actually liked writing was just a nice little bonus.

      Before it lay seven years of hard work and pain between “I want to do this” and “I DID IT!!!”

      I got a lot of really nasty rejections for my first novel, and over a hundred more rejections that started out as form responses and ended with “Hey, this is pretty good, send me something else” ones from the short fiction and poetry I started writing and submitting after that first novel didn’t work out, but before I sold anything. There were never any guarantees. There still aren’t.

      So from that, I’ll note this. Having people tell you you’re good with words is utterly useless.

      You probably are, but writing fiction has very little to do with being good with words.

      Writing fiction successfully requires hunger. Desire. Persistence. Pain.

      You have to want to do this enough to burn all your free time being awful, and trying to figure out WHY what you’ve written is awful by presenting your work to editors or readers, by being rejected by editors or readers, by dragging whatever clues you can out of whatever editorial feedback you receive, by learning to plot, characterize, worldbuild, and revise…

      All the while knowing that there are no guarantees.

      So above all, you have to really WANT this, and you have to know WHY you want it, and you have to want it just for yourself. Because no matter how good you are or become, there will be people who hate what you do, and hate you for daring to do it, and they will rip you apart just for the fun of watching you bleed.

      You have to want it enough that you can flip them the bird and keep going.

      You ALSO have to want it enough that you can ignore the high praise from the folks who tell you they love your work and can’t wait for your next book, and would buy anything you wrote, including your shopping lists, and that you are their favorite writer in the world, because in the instant that you let yourself succumb to those wonderful words, you will get lazy and sloppy and stop knowing that no matter how good you are right now, you’re not as good as you can be.

      You’ll stop pushing to be better, and your work will stagnate, and repeat itself, and wither on the vine of how good you would have been if you held firm on the goal of making each new book better than the last — of continuing to learn the craft until the day you die.

      I love my job now. When I was much younger, I fought to earn it for a completely non-writing reason, and while I enjoyed it, I was doing it only because it was the one thing I could think of to do as a divorced mom that would let me stay home with my kids.

      So here’s the take-away question:

      Why do you want this enough to burn for it, to push yourself through pain and years of unpaid work to get to low-paying work before reaching a point where it becomes a pretty decent living (if you’re persistent and very lucky), while suffering the attacks of assholes and the temptation to believe the praise of fans (and thereby to let yourself get lazy), and the ever-present fantasy (but unlikely reality) of fame and riches?

      Why do you want this for yourself? What’s in it for you that is big enough and important enough that you’re willing to suffer through years of rejection and the gentle amusement, or disbelief, or mockery, or downright hostility of folks you think right now are on your side…

      What’s in it for you that will keep going while you’re learning, and while no one but you is seeing why this “stupid hobby” (a quote from my own life) is important enough to pursue?

      If you have no answer for this, and don’t want to dig deep enough to find one, you don’t want it enough.

      If you decide you do want it enough, I have a free class that will get you started on building a working writing career, starting by creating very small, very basic, (but very salable) fiction. This is free as in “Free Beer,” not free with hidden strings, or money down the line, or anything like that.

      It comes with a nice, friendly, supportive, and also free, community of other writers, and the rules that keep the community friendly.

      If you decide you really want this, you’re welcome to come hang out with us and get writing done.

  9. Sarah Avatar

    I got a 63 and I’m only 12!!! How is that even possible!?

    1. Holly Avatar

      Being a writer doesn’t depend on your age. It depends on your desire, direction, passion, and willingness to work.

      I started on my path to being a writer in first grade, when a teacher read one of my stories out loud, and had that path strengthened in fifth grade, when another teacher had my class produce a play I’d written just for fun. It took me a long, long time and a tremendous amount of hard work to actually make writing fiction my job.

      But like most writers, from a very early age I was a dedicated and broad reader… and I loved making up stories and telling them to others.

  10. Nikolas Vrabel Avatar
    Nikolas Vrabel

    Hello, my name is Nikolas. I would love to be a writer, I just wrote a short story weeks back. It is called The dark fate of Cleven Trenton. My goal is to look at my bookshelves to see my exhilarating name on the books. I have made poems and short stories. My longest one was 5,000 words and I wrote it in about 3 days. I have a great imagination, one of the things people like about my writing is the twists that they didn’t expect, anticipate. I am 13 but hope to be a great writer some day. My score was not bad, it was 83 I’m pretty sure. Somewhere in the 80’s. I am also known for using big words. The thing in my short stores is not to add a lot of detail of my/character’s surroundings but don’t take that the wrong way I still do. I like adding more details on the my/characters emotions, what their doing in the moment. Also, I may be a little dark for a 13 year old. I like gloomy stories. I usually write short stories that is what I am known for, but I also write fairy tales, and poems! I write about death and sorrow. I am inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, and Maya Angelou. Also, what I usually mean by well known, I mean my school. My most well known short story is the one I said earlier. The dark fate of Cleven Trenton. It is about a psychopath who went crazy because of his mom. The dad left when he was 5. The time is in 1940 to 1976 when he died. Here is a little poem for you I wrote a couple years ago. I was maybe 8 and I still loved gloomy stories, and poems.

    Walking slowly down man-made trail,
    the leaves looked to be eaten at and was very pale,
    the air grew cold as I saw my breaths detail.
    The woman I saw in the distance made me inhale,
    as I gasped in fear, I clasped the tree.
    Twas no sight for no mortal to see,
    the moment I saw her I beseeched thy lord,
    have you no heart to torture me!?
    The woman’s presence felt closer than normal,
    her amble walk was very much abnormal,
    unusual for the mortal’s eye to abhor.
    Mother nature eliminated the mare with no reward,
    For her soul wrought and brought her body restored,
    I hastened back to my property where I was adored.
    I never again saw the daunting mare,
    But dreams live on and I am still there.
    I never forgot the dream of thee jane doe,
    When I took my life, she was still in my afterlife dreams and she will remain so.

    Sincerely, Nikolas Vrabel.

    P.S. I cam giving you my grandma’s email since I am a little young for one of my own.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Nikolas,

      First, if you genuinely want to do this job, you can do it.

      “Using big words” is not important — and can be actively detrimental to your fiction. Using the right words is critical. Sometime the big word is the right word, and sometimes the smallest and simplest words are far more meaningful and more important.

      The story in your poem is pretty good (ESPECIALLY for a kid who was eight when he wrote it). I’ll note that it’s important to become very, very good at grammar, spelling, and punctuation if you want to write professionally; grammar, spelling, and punctuation are the tools of your trade, and you cannot build a good book if you misuse words, don’t correctly capitalize and punctuate, change tenses accidentally, and other grammatical issues.

      You have the massive advantage of being young, of knowing what you want to do, and of being able to really throw yourself at mastering English grammar in order to be able to create the career you desire. If you’re willing to do the groundwork that will allow you to be a proficient writer, you can become that guy with the shelves full of great books with your name on them.

  11. Taarika Avatar

    I’m only 10 and I got 53! I really love writing- especially fiction!

    1. Holly Avatar

      That’s awesome, Taarika. Keep going. I loved writing when I was a kid, and in fifth grade, one of my teachers, Miss Massarelli at East Elementary in New Philadelphia, Ohio, took a play that I wrote just for fun on my own time and let my classmates and me build sets for it, produce it, and put it on for the rest of the school… and some parents who came.

      From that, and especially from HER, I learned that writing on my own time could lead to a lot of fun for me, and be fun for people who liked my work. You’re a year younger than I was when I wrote that play. So… yeah. Keep writing, but make sure you’re having fun while you do it.

  12. Willow Avatar

    Hi! I’m 12 years old, and i’ve always LOVED writing. My dad says my ability to use language to describe is amazing, but frankly I suck at making filler text. I’ve started writing a novel, and although I know it’ll never see the light of day, I really want to to finish it. I’ve been working on it for about 3 months, and I only have about 3,000 words, since I find it incredibly hard to find motivation. It’s my longest story and still not even close to novel length… Do you have any advice for me? I got 53 on the quiz. Also, if it’s okay i’ll just add a poem I wrote a year ago to show you some of my writing.

    She plucked the rose
    Red as a garnet, sharp as a knife.
    The willow tree, swaying in the distance
    Green as an emerald, greedy as a king.
    She was there, as she hopped over the little moat
    Blue as a sapphire, cold as the dead.
    She was hidden, yet a raindrop still fell on her face…
    Or was it a tear?
    Salty as the sea, true as a rainbow.
    She set the rose on they grave and released a great sob
    Lone as a fox, cold as the rain.
    Then she walked away.

    Yeahhhhhhh… not the best, but I was only 11. I’ve revised it since then, though. Any feedback and advice would be greatly appreciated!


    1. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Willow.

      First, the poem is very good, especially when you consider that you were eleven when you wrote it.

      Second, in GOOD fiction, there is no such thing as filler text. Everything you put in has to matter.

      Third, when you have 3000 words, you’ve written a short story. And when you’re beginning, it’s much, much more important, to learn how to do beginnings, middles, and ends, and especially to learn how to finish what you start, than it is to write long.

      Fourth, you’re underage for my professional writing site, but if your dad is willing to supervise you when you use the interactive forum portion of the site, you’re invited to create a free account at HollysWritingClasses.com and take the free How to Write Flash Fiction class.

      The class is absolutely free, the only information you give to take it is a working email address that you have to use to log in, and IF AND ONLY IF your dad agrees to supervise you, I’ll give you special permission to take the class, but also to use the forums so you can get feedback on your work.

  13. Katherina Mook Avatar
    Katherina Mook


    I saw this quiz, saw that it was created by a real writer, and clicked so fast I don’t think my eyes even had time to make contact with anything else.
    I can easily get sucked into writing– over the summer I had a free week and was glued to my computer the whole time. My poor friend, who I was living with at the time, had to deal with my irritation every time she tried to talk to me during writing (does this happen to all writers? I cannot stand when people try to talk to me while I write). The one week I really let myself slip down the slope that is writing I spat our 40k words in 5 days.
    I’m a sophomore in college studying neuroscience and sociology, but I write online novels as a hobby and finished writing my first book my first semester as a freshman (I did absolutely nothing the entirety of Thanksgiving Break besides write. It was glorious.) I’ve never even considered publishing, mostly because I don’t know how high quality my work is and I don’t even know where to start.
    If I’m being completely honest, I don’t really know if I want to publish. I began posting on online platforms because they were where I first picked up my passion with reading, and the idea of making people pay for my books makes me want to hurl. However, I am also well antiquated with the fact that food and rent requires steady income. I just want to sit in the dark with my laptop and way too much food, write myself to sleep, and cry-laugh as I read all of the wonderful comments people write on my works. (Is it possible to pull a modern-day Henry David Thoreau? I did hear that his mother brought him pies occasionally, however.)

    TDLR; I love writing, but I don’t know where to go from there. How did you go from working a day-job to writing? My plan right now is to continue with the career I’ve outlined for myself, write for fun, and leave it at that, but I don’t know if that’s truly what I should do or what I’ve conditioned myself into believing.

    Very best,

    Kat Mook 🙂

    1. Holly Avatar

      I love writing, but I don’t know where to go from there. How did you go from working a day-job to writing?

      In my case, I wrote on my days off, when the kids were asleep, when I was alone, when I had a couple free minutes during a break at work. I made it my second unpaid job, and I was as faithful to it (and as regular) as I was with my paid job. I showed up on time every day, I worked the time I had, I didn’t slack off, make excuses, or get distracted — because if you want to do this as a job, you treat it like the work you want to do for the rest of your life from the moment you know this is what you truly love — and love enough that you want to get paid to do it.

      And I pushed myself to get better. I read and dissected books I loved to figure out why the worked for me. I read and dissected books I hated to figure out why they didn’t.

      And I submitted my work, and dealt with the rejections, and learned from the ones that told me anything actually useful.

      And most of all, I didn’t quit. Because being a full-time novelist is a hard job to get, and a hard job to keep.

      But if you love the work, which is its own reward, with you telling yourself these stories first, and making yourself laugh, and cry, and scaring the crap out of yourself from time to time — then the work itself will be enough to keep you going until the money starts coming in.

  14. Rebel Avatar

    Hi, Holly! Thank you so much for the amazing test. It would be really nice of you if you could land me some advice. I got a score of 86, and i truly want to become a writer but due to lack of financial stability in the writing carreer and lack of good english colleges in my country, i have no choice but to pursue medicine as a carreer (btw i am very good in sciences just as much as i am good at writing). Do u think it would be possible for me to get into medicine without butchering my dream of becoming a writer (because i have an ever-expanding list of all the books i want to write one day, but i don’t think medicine as a carreer would allow me enough time to work upon my writing and books)?
    Thank you for your time!

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Medicine is more reliable, pays better, gets your a lot more respect, and comes with benefits.

      Writing… isn’t, doesn’t — and there are no guarantees, no quick way to get where you want to be, no direct path to success. Writing is hard always, and even if there were good colleges in your country, that’s no guarantee that you would be a writer when you were up to your eyeballs in debt with an English degree.

      I have an Associate Degree in Nursing. That’s it. I taught myself to write, and I was only able to do that because I worked my ass off for years learning the craft (WHILE I was working as a Registered Nurse and raising two kids).

      Writing is a “you really have to want it, you have to be able to take a lot of rejection, you have to work for free until you’re good enough to get paid, and you may never make it anyway” kind of job.

      1. Rebel Avatar

        Thank you so much for your precious advice! It’s very helpful!

  15. Laura E Millard Avatar
    Laura E Millard

    I am only 13 years old but I got 56 points. I think that I can do this but it will take lots of time. Thanks for this quiz.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      You’re very welcome.

  16. Abby Avatar

    Ayyo 54! But I still don’t know if I want to be a writer yet, but I write on my free time! Still in High school. sigh.

  17. Shani Avatar

    I got 57. I’m not totally sure what this means for me. LOL But its interesting to do this test.

  18. Mark C Hanson Avatar
    Mark C Hanson

    I scored an even 60. For most of my life, I’ve been a dabbler as far as writing goes. I’ve always enjoyed it, in fact when I was a kid, the only class I did well in was English. I grew up watching SNL and Johny Carson on tv and reading national lampoon, hoping to one day be able to write jokes and funny stories for a living. but I fell off on writing ( and reading) in my middle years. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I was a very unhappy person for a long stretch. Only in the last year or so have I really started wanting to explore this old love of mine again. I lost my leg a few years back ( I tell everyone who asks that I made a bad bet in a card game. the guy wanted an arm AND a leg but I talked him down to just the leg. I’m no dummy!), and I’ve had other health issues. So my mortality is something on my mind a lot now, and I don’t want to be some poor sad sack who’s full of regret when the lights come down. I just want to be poor! So…Writer or one-legged twister champion is it for me.
    In my adult life, I took to writing things down as a way of working out problems. It helps me to clear my head and also helps keep me from talking to myself like a nutter ( still do it though).
    My biggest problems I think are discipline and managing time. I’m always on time for my J.O.B., but when it comes to myself, I’ve been hit and miss. I have resolved to work on this, however. I read that if you can do something repeatedly for several weeks, it will become a habit. So I’m really trying to commit to writing every day. So far so good. And, yikes I have gone on for way too long. Sorry!

    1. Holly D Lisle Avatar

      It’s tough to want it enough. My motivation was not being able to save two kids dying in an emergency room when I was twenty-four, and seeing in those two kids and a stupid, pointless accident a possible future for my own two kids if I was at work as a nurse all the time.

      I saw writing as my path to being home with my kids — and it became that. And there came a time when the fact that I was at home when they needed me genuinely saved them both.

      So what is the worst thing that can happen if you don’t write? If it’s just that you never will have checked off that one item on your “I wish I’d…” list, you won’t ever do this.

      If this is the thing that can save you or someone you love, you will find a way.

  19. Ashlie Avatar

    I scored a 91. Now if I’ll just sit down and write instead of just collect shelf help on writing, all these characters in my head might quiet down a bit. I think it’s time to re-read/do the exercises for How to Motivate Yourself.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      That’s the trick, Ashlie. It’s easy to read about the work. But forming a writing habit of even ten minutes a day, five days a week, is what will actually get you past “reading about writing” to WRITING.

      You can do this.

  20. Gary Townsend Avatar
    Gary Townsend

    I scored a 66, which is good.

    I’ve written several novels, but never had the confidence to mail them out. Okay, be honest, Gary. Fact is, I never edited them, so that’s why I lacked the confidence to mail them out.


    Several years ago I learned about Algis Budrys’s little book, WRITING TO THE POINT. I read it, wrote a couple of short stories that followed his advice, then mailed them out. Neither got published, but they both received handwritten rejections from George Scithers, when he was still around and editor of WEIRD TALES. I’ve sent those stories to several other magazines, but ain’t no one bitin’ on them. His comment on the first story was, “Good. Just not irresistible.” A friend who is a pro writer/editor told me that Scithers never used the word “good” lightly in reference to a story, so if he said it was good, then it was certainly publishable. I just needed to figure out who would be willing to publish it. So far, no one. Ugh.

    I used to work in telecom, and I had a lot of free time in that field. I always used that time to either read or write, after I made sure that all my work for the night was done, of course.

    I’ve currently got a Civil War fantasy idea that’s been banging around inside my head for a couple of years, and in the process have ideas for a trilogy for it. I’m just not sure I’m ready — or even that the story is ready — to be put down on paper yet. :/

    1. Gary Townsend Avatar
      Gary Townsend

      One thing I’ve thought of doing, but haven’t yet, is taking those stories that garnered handwritten rejections, along with a few others, and put them together into a collection of my own short stories, then shove them up on Amazon and see what happens with them.

      I don’t expect them to make a big splash. Other self-pubbed writers who are pros in the field have told me that anthologies don’t sell well, and I’m inclined to believe it. What I don’t believe, however, is the nonsense that says that to be a successful self-pubbed writer you need to write a series.

      Aside from the obvious differences between being traditionally published vs self-published, I don’t see a lot of difference between what makes one writer successful over another. There are plenty of traditionally published writers who have been wildly successful with their series (Jim Butcher comes immediately to mind) just as there are plenty of the same who have been wildly successful writing almost exclusively stand-alone books (Stephen King, with a few exceptions, comes to mind). To me, the idea that a series is required for self-pubbing success is a complete and utter non sequitur.

      1. Holly Avatar

        So… did you do it. Did you put your stories into a collection, and put them on Amazon?

        I discovered that I’d missed this post when it came in — I’m sorry I missed that — but having had a good rejection from George Scithers certainly suggests your work has real potential.

        And if you’ve written novels, learning to revise them can give you more things to either submit to publishers, or publish on your own. (I’d recommend the latter.)

        In any case, how are you doing with your fiction?

        1. Gary Townsend Avatar
          Gary Townsend

          Thank you, Holly.

          Unfortunately, no, I didn’t put them into a collection. For the past few years I ended up taking care of my mother full time, as she had dementia. She passed away this past March, and I’m only just now starting to get back into doing a lot of the things I used to do regularly. But thank you for asking!

          Another handwritten rejection I received from George Scithers on another short story during his stint at WEIRD STORIES was “Trying to be too literary?”

          Based on things I’d been told in the past, I figured I must be getting close if I’m receiving handwritten rejections.

          I do still plan to get those short stories put into a collection and up on Amazon, now that I’m not harried about everywhere with taking care of my mom. I’ve also got a website designed and a domain name, so I want to get that up and running too. I’ve got tons of time now, so absolutely no excuses.

          1. Holly Avatar

            I’m very sorry for your loss — a wonderful friend of mine is going through that with his wife right now, and through him I’m seeing what that entails.

            I’m really glad you haven’t given up.

            1. Gary Townsend Avatar
              Gary Townsend

              I decided to retake the quiz, since it’s been a few years. My 66 went up to a 77. The only B answer I gave was to question 4. I probably could have made it a C, which would make my score 80. I do, after all, have a notepad app on my phone, as well as an audio recorder. Years and years and years ago, I used to carry a micro-cassette recorder with me and I’d record ideas no matter where I was…even in the car.

              I remember how playing back a recording completely startled me the first time I did it, because I’d never heard myself on a recording before. My reaction was, “Good grief! Do I sound bookish, or what?! You nerd!” LOL! It was my tone and word choice that startled me most. Not quite as bad as the late William F. Buckley, though (with all due respect to WFB).

              I use that digital notepad on my phone all the time, especially when I’m in a bookstore. The main purpose there is to write down the titles and authors of books I want, but can’t afford to buy right at that moment (bloody limited budget). But that’s not its only use.

              I haven’t yet tried my phone’s audio recorder, but I should. I’d probably use that more than the notepad for story ideas, since I’m much more used to that. A while back I did buy a separate digital audio recorder (similar to my old microcassette recorder) and made good use of it. I’ll have to free up space on my phone for it, though. It would be good to get back into that habit again.

            2. Gary Townsend Avatar
              Gary Townsend

              With respect to sounding bookish, I’ve had friends who have expressed surprise that I quote books as often as I do. With me, I can read a book just once, and things just stick inside my head. Flypaper brain, that’s me (but without the poison). I may have read a book years and years ago, but while writing a comment online something someone said in a book I’ve read will come to mind, and I’ll run and grab the book, to make sure I quote the author accurately. And I usually remember exactly where the quote appears in the book too. Can’t do that right now, though, because most of my physical books are in storage. ~sulk! grrr!~ But I have my Kindles and the hundreds of ebooks that are on those.

              When I moved from Maryland to California back in the early 90s, my parents packed my stuff up and brought it to me in a U-Haul after I finally found a place to stay. My father commented that most of the boxes in the back of that U-Haul were full of books, and that I had enough to open my own library. Yup. Still true today, in fact, even after losing a ton of books in an unfortunate storage unit fiasco.

              1. Holly Lisle Avatar
                Holly Lisle

                For our moves from Georgia to Florida, and then from Florida to Ohio, we left walls of books behind. Our neighbors took a lot of them. We donated a bunch to a local library. And some became landfill — simply because there was no time, no place, and no way we could deal with them.

                Another Incoming Hurricane after having just dealt with a previous one forced us to make hard choices. And “there will be more books” was the solution to “there might not be more us.”

  21. Kylia Toreel Avatar
    Kylia Toreel

    I am not sure what My 86 score says about me (other than I’m probably not fit for company outside other writers).

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Welcome to the club.

  22. Nancy Doyle Avatar
    Nancy Doyle

    In spite of my seventy-three score, I have a situation here I don’t know how to solve. I completed your How to Revise Your Novel course, and it helped tremendously. I was able to move on and complete a three novel series several years ago. Then, BANG, I was hit with a dire medical problem. I was lucky I didn’t die, and now I’m moving on into better health. But, survival took a toll. Recovery changes many things including the push it takes to write. I still have ideas, some not too bad. But, I get a few chapters in and then poof…everything falls apart. My enthusiasm evaporates, energy ebbs, and imagination flounders until nothing much is left. What the heck is happening to me? Will I ever be able to write again? Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for my life, but this writing problem is breaking my heart!

    1. Holly Avatar

      Belatedly, and hoping that you’re doing better and that this is now unnecessary advice, working to a ten-minute timer, and resting in between timers, is one way to get fiction written when you have health issues.

  23. Mary Alice Kropp Avatar

    I got a 58, but only because some of the questions don’t really relate to me. As in, I don’t have a day job now, and haven’t in years. And the kids are all grown and gone. So I have the luxury of being home all the time and able to write when I want- up to a point. There are other things I have to do, of course. But I had to pick a best of what was there answer in those cases. I generally finish what I start. I also usually have no problem letting others read what I write, even (at times) first drafts. I write mostly for me, because I have stories to tell and I love doing it. If others like it, too- well, that’s icing on the cake, right?

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Writing for yourself because you enjoy the process is entirely valid.

      It doesn’t have to be a job, it doesn’t have to be a mountain you can climb. Sometimes it can just be an affirmation that you’re alive and like being alive.

  24. Karen Flieger Avatar
    Karen Flieger

    I got a 58. I can come up with all kinds of ideas, but it’s sticking with one to completion that is difficult for me.

    I just found the podcast (Alone in a Room With Invisible People) and I absolutely love it.

    I’m a little bit scattered. I’m interested in a lot of different things and I’ve always read widely, so any advice on how I can hone in and focus on an idea would be great.

    1. Holly Avatar

      That’s a really good question. Could you ask it on the Podcast Forum so Becca and I can add it to our questions list and turn it into an episode?

      Go to https://hollyswritingclasses.com and create a free account to get the free forum.

  25. Amari Bloodmoon Avatar

    this quiz was really good. I really enjoyed all the questions and adding up the answers at the end!
    I got in the 50-79 (70 to be exact) point section which I think is the second best so I am happy with that! I am currently in the process of writing a fantasy YA (young adult) book.
    Also, I am only twelve which kinda sucks cos I know that not many publishers will want to publish a book written by someone so young even if its good but hopefully they will!

  26. Fernando Bonita Avatar
    Fernando Bonita

    Hello! I’ve been lurking on the site for years. And now, my interest in writing has reignited, and I plan to make writing a habit. I currently have a premise or idea for a story, how would I going to make it big to create a novel? Thanks.


    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      This is something I just finished covering in Lesson 29 of my How to Write a Novel class — It’s a big lesson, big worksheet, and not something I can answer with any degree of usefulness in just a few words. (The class is not available to new students right now. Probably early in April, and then maybe again in September.)

      Getting the story idea both right and writeable — and then keeping it that way, is a huge part of creating anything really good.

  27. Benita Avatar

    Well, I tried to answer each question honestly and sometimes the truest answer was a combination of answers. But scoring conservatively I hit 69 and am happy with that. This first challenge is interesting since I’m one of those people who never wants to show people what I’ve written. I’ve had some dismal experiences with sharing on websites, but I will trust that Holly will keep this civilized. I’ve been lurking on Holly’s site for years so I’m finally stepping up and doing the work.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Members over at HollysWritingClasses.com are warm, wonderful, helpful people. If you want to get a lot of writing done with other folks who love doing what you do, you’ll fit right in.

  28. Susan Castillo Avatar
    Susan Castillo

    My 72 gives me hope… not that I didn’t already have that, it just boosts what I had. I feel as if I’ve opened a door into a cool new place, and looking around has me very intrigued. At 50, I’ve wanted in my soul to “be a writer” since at least the fifth grade. The problem has always been a matter of practicality; you see, my mother, who comes from a long line of practical women, was a shining example of the wisdom of Being Smart (i.e., don’t do risky things with your life and your career when sticking with the safe path will get you into a good place). So, I’ve been smart. I went to nursing school (high-five Holly) and now work in healthcare IT and make good money and have good benefits and a great schedule and I’m so unfulfilled I could pop. I’ve dived into various pools of creativity such as painting and jewelry-making nd gardening, but always have the writing bug tickling the inside of me. My writing starts and stops haven’t gone far, but it’s TIME. I’m so happy to have found your place, and to see where I can go!

    1. Holly Avatar

      Astounding how many folks get talked out of their dreams by the well-meaning. Write! It’s hard work, but it’s wonderful work. You can do it.

  29. michael mueller Avatar
    michael mueller

    hi holly, . took the test and didn’t score very high but my question to you is, do you think someone who just turned 50 is a little too old to start writing books? I make my living as a mechanic and have a great work schedule that affords me plenty of time off but realistically what could someone’s chance be of writing and getting published? I’m not looking to write the next best seller or get a movie deal. secondly, how do I go about creating the story I want to tell? do I character build first? and create the fictional world after, just not sure where to start. I have started reading your articles and I think the great, not to mention honest and straight forward. just looking for a bit of insight on how get my project off the ground and get to writting

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Hi, Michael —

      Fifty is not too old. Seventy is not too old. Where writing is concerned, the only time when you’re too old do do something you dream of doing is when you’re dead.

      Here’s a quick freebie workflow for getting started.

      This is stuff I cover in more detail and a LOT more depth in my classes, but this will definitely get you started.

  30. Alysza Eddy Avatar
    Alysza Eddy

    So… I’m 11 and I’m currently working on writing a novel and I got a score of 73, if I did the math correctly. I have a couple questions as to writing. Everyone that I’ve shown my writing to, including my teachers, said it was great. In class, for any creative writing, I have an average length of the story being 7 pages long at a font size of 14. Ok, back on track, so first of all, if actually write a semi-decent novel, is it realistic for me to get at least $100 in total, considering the fact that I’m only 11? Also, my novel is basically about “The Chosen 15” and blah blah blah, but what do you think is the maximum amount of characters to have in a novel? Thank you so much!


    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      First thing you need to keep in mind is that unless your school teacher is a published author, your teacher does not know what makes fiction publishable. It isn’t what teachers in grade schools teach.

      The first things I had to unlearn before I could start selling my fiction were all the rules my school teachers taught me about writing.

      Once you’re past that hurdle, however, novels run around 50,000 words in length and up. At seven pages and at about a hundred eighty words a page (assuming you’re double-spacing and have one-inch margins on your pages), your current story length is about 1260 words.

      Assume that with your current set-up, to write a novel you’re going to need a story that runs about 277 pages.

      It’s doable. It requires thinking of bigger stories — and when you’re getting started, it’s a lot easier and more productive to focus on writing a lot of shorter stories, learning how to fit good characters and good conflict into that length, and working to find markets where you can sell those.

      There used to be magazines that specialized in fiction by kids. I’m not sure if there still are — a lot of magazines died when the Internet really took off.

      But look around, find places where you like the fiction they publish, and contact these magazines to inquire about how to submit your work.

      And good luck. There are folks your age (and a bit older) who have successfully published. And time is on your side — focus on learning the craft, on telling good stories about characters you love, and on being persistent — on NEVER quitting. You can do this.

  31. Laura Wilson-Anderson Avatar

    I got 96, which I’m pretty sure means I have no life (which is very true), but hey! I’m well prepared to be a writer. 🙂 I just need that cabin in the woods now…
    I worked at Baylor for a year, in Dallas, in the ER Lab. It was… interesting. 🙂

    1. Holly Avatar

      “Interesting.” Background requirement for folks wanting to have an easier go at writing for a living. Good luck with that cabin in the woods. I want one of those, too.

  32. Bill Joyce Avatar

    I really enjoyed this examination of consciousness… Passed (but by the skin of my teeth)

    I would love the opportunity to reprint this my in newsletter. Monthly Conversation. This year we are following the journey of becoming an author and this quiz will fit well as we begin in January.

    I hope this posting is appropriate and reached you for review and consideration. I could not find an email address for direct communication.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Sure. You’re welcome to reprint. Please include in the credits, Copyright Holly Lisle – HollyLisle.com, All Rights Reserved. Used with written permission of the author.

  33. Francine Seal Avatar
    Francine Seal

    I got a 50, which is all right for me. I’m retired so the “so I can quit my job” doesn’t really apply. The empty room for an hour – well, I’d probably fall asleep. Then again, my mind is so full of left turns as 60 mph, maybe I could come up with some more interesting ideas. I have finished one fantasy book of a projected 5 book series. A friend read it as I wrote it, almost – she got the latest chapter every Monday after I wrote on Sunday. But – I never got it edited. I have started thinking about giving editing another go. In the mean time I have the second book undergoing an outline process and I’m doing some editing at the same time. I’m a long time fan of you, Holly and I believe I have all or almost all of your classes. BTW – I’m 69 and going strong.

  34. Chris Lumber Avatar
    Chris Lumber

    I got a 56. What a fun thing to go through. I’m still trying to finish my first book, and have to go back and replan the middle section, as I found the sections I spent more time planning were earier to write.

  35. Joe Avatar

    Holly, thank you for creating your Working Tour, and this quiz. I scored a 77, affirming I’m on the write track! My second novel in its first draft is fiction. Its been an incredible eye-opening journey, transforming an idea into a spine-tingling story readers can’t put down. Searching online for fiction scene break-out and structure, led me to your website, and book, How to Write Page Turning Scenes. Such hidden gems, everything clear, concise, and easy to follow. I’m excited and enthusiastic about this working tour.

  36. Isabella Leigh Avatar
    Isabella Leigh

    I got a 59. Though, the first question was kind of unfair. If you hadn’t taken away my radio, I would have answered D. Without music, I gave myself a B. I’d go crazy in that room in the question, not from boredom, but from my overactive imagination. When it’s quiet is when my brain gives me serial killers coming to torture me to death.

  37. Anne Avatar

    A 92. I want this more than even I can imagine. This was really encouraging. Thanks!

  38. Varina Suellen Plonski Avatar

    Scored an 81. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I started writing when I was 4 – first story posted on the bulletin board at kindergarten. Then life happens. Wrote poetry, music and songs (minor fame for a song I wrote for my historical recreation group). Got started in serious mode for NaNoWriMo 2912 and won, despite 2 car accidents and a week-long, unrelated hospital stay. (Did I mention I’m also a Taurus?) Still working on that, because it grew legs and projects to be a 6 book series… plus 4 other books that have presented themselves.
    I’m about to be 65 years old. Other people started late, so why not me?
    I write Sci-fi empowerment. I’m not writing for money. If even ine person reads my story and feels encouraged, i am well-paid.

  39. Mike Avatar

    I got 60, but I’m not really sure how to answer #6. I answered B, but that really isn’t true because I haven’t worked full-time since I was diagnosed with MS three years ago. Fortunately, I can still work part-time doing something I love to do (teach guitar). So I feel like I didn’t really fit into any category. I have more time to write, so I write. Not because I want to quit my full-time job (that doesn’t exist), but because I finally have enough time to do what I’ve wanted to do for decades. Now I just need to prioritize all the other activities that seem to constantly clutter my days, and then get rid of the ones that aren’t really adding value to my life. Oh my goodness, that’s hard to do! There are so many things that I really CAN’T do now, so it’s really hard to say “no” to something that I CAN do but maybe shouldn’t.

  40. Dave Avatar

    I got a 46. My urge to write comes from sharing my life experience. I am constantly thinking about life, existence and purpose. Then i’ll jump to a movie idea or jump again to the crazy guy I saw on the bus.

    I have this urge to write it all down and share it. I cannot be the only one to benefit form all of these thoughts and experiences.

  41. Olakunbi Avatar

    I got 60, I know I have the perfect ideas for short stories and novels but the challenges I usually face are with my concentration and grammar. Performing an activity and sitting at a place for long is a huge challenge for me. I also feel my style of writing, structure and grammar need improvement. Is anyone aware of an online class that will help with my writing.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Writing is a learn-by-doing process that generally benefits from intelligent feedback from other folks doing the same thing.

      I offer a free short fiction class with live forum for feedback here:

      In it, I teach story structure, plotting, how to come up with good endings, and a few other basics. It’s self-paced.

  42. Kay Avatar

    I got an 80, and I’m actually a little surprised in myself. I’ve always been kind of a daydreamer, I guess. I’ve been told I’m good, but friends and family kind of have to say that. Wouldn’t want to discourage me, now would they? I guess I’m afraid that they aren’t honest, and that’s why I’m here. As of recently, I’ve joined a writing group. Unfortunately for me, this being my first year as a part of it, they can no longer do real competitions due to the unfortunate death of someone who was very important to it, sometimes going to help as many as six competitions in one day. Even so, some schools nearby are coming together soon for a small competition.

    I’m still going though. For my English class, we wrote a paper about World War I to be submitted to a contest. I chose to do a fiction story, which I was actually really worried about. Soon enough my teacher came up to me at the start of one class and praised my writing. She told me that she really enjoyed it, which was enough to make my day. She actually encouraged me to join the writing group and asked me about it a couple of times. More recently, I wrote a very small writing about a painting provided in art class, as the assignment for the first five minutes of class was to write a fiction about the painting. My art teacher later read my writing to the class and told me that had had already talked to the advanced teacher, and they planned to submit it into a contest, which was also really huge for me.

    I guess a part of me is still telling me that it isn’t possible I be talented at something. This was definitely reassuring, and I’ll try to get rid of any doubts. It’s a lot harder to write anything when you’re always second guessing yourself.

  43. Luis Petrizzo Avatar

    64…yeah, I’m getting varied reviews of my first story, but I’m still clear in the right path for my career.

  44. Seth Avatar

    I got a 50, which I suppose is a borderline grade. As a seventeen-year-old, I’ve not had a tremendous amount of teaching, but the craft as a hobby and as a career intrigues me. My only question is how far will sheer discipline get you on this path? If a rookie who has only ever written brief articles and short-stories dives into courses to improve his knowledge of the art and sharpens his skills through more focused writing sessions, will he go anywhere as a writer? What part does pure, natural creativity and talent play? Not having received a college degree or fully committed to a career, I’m sort of at a crossroads where writing seems like the ideal yet unrealistic journey.
    Thanks for the wonderful quiz — I agree that this is infinitely more helpful than any garbage Cosmo can come up with! I, too, live in Florida so I’ll be praying for recovery in your area. Thanks again!

    1. Holly Avatar

      First, realize that grades are meaningless garbage. They were garbage in school — they have no application to real life in school or after it.

      Second, there’s no grade on this quiz. Your results just where you’re starting, where you have strengths and weaknesses. It’ll give you some hints on areas where you can focus your attention if you want to do this.

      Third, college is absolutely unnecessary if you want a career as a professional writer, and people who go to college to become writers almost always learn destructive processes that they have to unlearn if they want to succeed. I cover this in a different article, which you might find helpful.

      1. Seth Avatar

        This is really helpful and encouraging, so thank you Mrs Lisle! Your other article answered a lot of my questions. If you don’t mind me asking (and I swear I mean no offense), but you mentioned you never attended college. Clearly, you’re an accomplished professional writer, but do you know any friends who went to college to further their writing career and regretted it?
        Thanks for the immediate response, by the way!

        1. Holly Avatar

          Yeah. I have a long list of colleagues who went to college to learn to write, didn’t, had their goals derailed into other paths, and came back to writing through my classes.

          It’s a long, LONG read (for a webpage) but you can read some of their experiences here:


          Look for the blue boxes.

  45. Muniya Pyne Avatar
    Muniya Pyne

    Yes, I just got a lovely 68 and I am happy. Thank you for your amazingly structured test. I love writing and currently wroting on Wattpad… 🙂 I hope I will definitely do better in future though.

    1. jenna fashe Avatar
      jenna fashe

      what is your name on wattpad? im also on there.

  46. Kelvin Avatar

    I got a 52, did some writing in high school but didn’t really complete the books. I dealt with fantasy and fiction, not really pursuing a career in writing but would love to write some books that I might not even publish. Do you think it’s possible to get good at writing even if it’s not my career choice?

  47. TheUFCVet Avatar

    Hey, I did better than I thought! I got 48. I’m 17, I enjoy writing a little bit of fanfiction on the side (writing will most likely always be a hobby for me but I wanted to try your test anyway), as well as reading quite a bit of it. Currently working on a couple of stories. Graphic design and video editing is where I can really get my ideas down in a fully satisfactory way, if you will. Still not there on the writing, (and probably won’t be for a few years), however progress will be made 🙂

    Although I still push myself to constantly be better. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, if I’m doing something I like, I always want to be the best I can possibly be at it. Constantly trying to improve. That goes for all my hobbies really. Video games, writing (definitely my least active hobby, still enjoy it a lot though), graphic design, video editing, that kind of stuff.

    Oh yes, did I mention that I can ramble on for a while? Haha. Well thanks for making this test Holly, it was fun! (and good!)

  48. Carolyn Kim Avatar
    Carolyn Kim

    Got a 78! I don’t particularly enjoy writing in general, but when I’m writing for fun(writing a short story or continuously working on a “book”)it really lets me use my imagination and creativity in a different way!

  49. Joel gilmore Avatar
    Joel gilmore

    I got a 51! I’m working on my very first book, and I’m reading and watching every tip and trick to write a good book, thanks for this quiz, it really opened my eyes to some things

    1. Holly Avatar

      You’re very welcome. I’m glad I could help.

  50. Kylie Avatar

    I’m only 11 great imagination.. Or so I’m told. And I got 49! I’m writing fantasy Adventure books, and apparently.. I think I can do it! Thanks for the inspiration! Can’t wait to get started!!

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Go get ’em, Kylie! You can do this.

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